The Petty Archives

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – review | Royal Albert Hall, London / 4/5
By Stevie Chick
The Guardian - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One of American rock's true evergreens, Tom Petty has never really stopped selling out arenas at home, so even though tonight's a sellout, the 5,000-capacity Albert Hall is still a modest crowd for him. Not that he isn't thrilled to play this venerated venue. "This has been a longtime dream of ours," he offers, humbly. "With all my heart, in a very 'non-showbiz' way, we're very happy to be at the Royal Albert Hall."

"Showbiz" isn't really Petty's thing. His stage set-up is spartan - some aged amps and roadworn gear - but that's because Petty's the kind of talent you don't have to dress up. His Heartbreakers resemble a bar band, but play like the seasoned, top-level ensemble they are, and Petty clearly relishes letting them take the spotlight, ducking side-stage and manically shaking maracas as they fire off a fevered run through Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well.

While Petty's lyrics often harbour a bittersweet edge beneath their radio-perfect choruses, the America he evokes in his music is ultimately seductive. As he closes with his choicest anthem, American Girl - a melody-slaked dash that's as perfect pop as rock'n'roll ever gets - he makes this London landmark swing like a down-home Florida dive. Some impressive alchemy there; his fans doubtless couldn't ask for more.